Commonwealth Foundation Project
Increasing socio-economic resilience among fisherfolk communities and raising awareness surrounding climate change
The fishing industry accounts for over 1% of GDP in Mauritius and is vital for the country’s socio-economic development. In 2021 alone, the fisheries production managed to reach approximately 32955 tonnes. Despite the significance of fisherfolk in the Mauritian economy, they are one of the most vulnerable and risk-exposed communities. The fishing industry on the island is largely affected by the negative effects stemming from climate change due to higher input costs and higher sea temperatures, which leads to ecological shifts and a loss of marine life. Fisherfolk are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change and environmental degradation. The stock of fish has taken a huge hit and this negatively impacts the livelihoods of fisherfolk in Mauritius. These challenges were exacerbated by the Wakashio wreck which spilled hundreds of tonnes of oil off the coast of Mauritius in 2020. This had devastating effects on fishing communities. Unfortunately, following the oil spill, EPCO realised that many fisherfolk could not access government compensation because they were not registered, thus highlighting the importance of registering. Despite the significance of fisherfolk in the Mauritian economy, they are one of the most vulnerable and risk-exposed communities.
Another challenge facing the fishing communities is the knowledge gap as many of them are not educated enough to have their voices heard in the policy arena and within advocacy groups. Many fisherfolk are not familiar with the steps to obtain more favourable conditions. Being aware of support systems offered by government as well as their rights, would allow fisherfolk to be more resilient to sudden shocks and the negative effects of climate change. It is vital that the voices of fisherfolk are heard in order to ensure impactful policy-making within this field but this cannot be achieved without education and the training of fishing communities in this department. In order to reduce the effects of this knowledge gap in fisher communities, EPCO initiated the Commonwealth Foundation Project in 2022 with the help of funding from the Commonwealth Foundation.
The main objective of the Commonwealth Foundation project is to increase the socio-economic resilience of fisherfolk in the SouthEast of Mauritius by enhancing their capacity to participate in advocacy and policy review.
The project will be rolled out and implemented over a period of 24 months across 18 coastal villages and it has two primary targets which are met through the means of training and education for fisherfolk:
1. Increased socio-economic resilience among fisherfolk communities to better advocate in policy and programme review in the republic of Mauritius
2. Increase global warming awareness and its effect on fish
In order to maximise the effects of the project, a comprehensive policy plan was outlined and followed accordingly. The project began by gathering data on registered and unregistered fisherfolk in 18 coastal villages which are the target areas of the project and are each located in the SouthEast region of the island. This was followed by training days in the villages which focused on educating about the government support systems as well as supports provided by fisheries institutions and banks. Being aware of these systems increase the socio-economic resilience of the fishfolker and ensure they can access supports when necessary.
Other training days were also held in the villages which aimed to educate fisherfolk on their rights and policies that are relevant to them. The aim of this was to increase their resilience to risk and improve their incomes. Another key aspect of the Commonwealth Foundation Project was to empower fisherfolk to become involved in advocacy and policy-making processes which is important to ensure the voices of fisherfolk are heard within the policy arena. This was again done through a one-day training workshop in coastal villages.
Many fisherfolk are unfamiliar with the world of social media and technology. Thus, the Commonwealth Foundation project aimed to enhance their capacity to use social media in order to improve their livelihoods through a one-day training workshop. Fisherfolk are also trained on how to form cooperatives and associations which empowers them and makes their voices stronger. Lastly, in order to keep up with the fact paced and changing technological world, fisherfolk are trained in the development of new sustainable fishing techniques and the use of innovative thinking and equipment. The project also focuses on increasing gender equality within the fishing sector and aims to empower women to enter the fishing sector.
In summary, the project aimed to train fisherfolk in 18 villages on:
- How to become a registered fisherman/woman and what are the benefits associated with being a registered fisherman/woman
- Fishing card- How to get it, the procedure, submitting the request
- How to get the FITEC certificate
- How to get the Morality certificate
- Summary of steps to obtain the fishing license
- Registration conditions, terms and conditions
Information on how the project and how to become registered and obtaining a fishing card is readily available via informative YouTube videos that outline the necessary steps that need to be taken in order to become registered and how to obtain a fishing card.
Additionally, the attendees at the training days learn about climate change and how they can make their fishing practices more ecologically friendly in order to minimize the negative effects of climate change. The training days ensure that the information can be disseminated throughout fishing communities. The end-goal of the project is for the fisherfolk to be more aware of their rights, policies and available support systems, and thus, be able to better participate in the creation of new policies and programmes which affect their livelihoods. This project aims to empower fisherfolk to have their voices heard within the policy arena through the means of increased education and awareness.